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CMS board adds mask mandate to meeting agenda, could vote next week

The CMS Board of Education can vote on masks in class at their regularly scheduled meeting next week.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools Board of Education could vote on masking in CMS classrooms during their meeting next Tuesday.

Sources told WCNC Charlotte Thursday that masks are now an action item on the agenda. This designation means district leaders could vote to change the current mask mandate if they desired.

The discussion comes after the Mecklenburg Board of County Commissioners' decision Wednesday to rescind the county's indoor mask mandate, effective Feb. 26.

Previously, masks were only a discussion item on the agenda. The board most recently voted on Feb. 8 to keep its mask mandate in place. North Carolina state law requires school districts to vote monthly on mask requirements. 

CMS Board of Education members are getting their emails flooded by parents on both sides of the debate on masking in schools.

One of those parents is Brooke Weiss.

“People are capable of making their own risk assessments and decisions," Weiss said. "Everybody has the option to wear a mask, vaccines are widespread and available to people." 

Weiss and dozens of other parents have come to CMS board meetings monthly to ask the board to have plans for once the county-wide mask mandate was lifted.

"I was 13 when this started. And I'm now 15. In high school," Eve Weiss, Brooke Weiss' daughter, said. "I was a seventh-grader in middle school. I haven't seen some friends' faces in two years, and new friends that I've made in high school, some of them, I've never once seen their face.”

Parents of immunocompromised children asked the school board to slow down on possibly lifting the mask mandate, however.

“I want you all to consider who you're helping and who you're hurting," one parent at the BOCC meeting said. "Lifting the mask mandate adds risk and thus hurts children. It also hurts black and brown bodies in our community."

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North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper spoke Thursday afternoon on new mask guidance. Cooper encouraged schools and local governments to end mask mandates Thursday, citing widespread vaccine availability and decreasing COVID-19 metrics statewide.  

If CMS lifts its mask mandate, it will join each of its neighboring districts who have now dropped mask mandates for students.

Two school board members, Sean Strain and Rhonda Cheek, have voted against the mask mandate in CMS schools multiple times. They're expected to vote for masks to be optional next week.

Boar Chair Elyse Dashew said she is waiting to hear what recommendation the superintendent gives about the mask mandate.

On top of considering health leaders' recommendations, board members must listen to students, staff and parents.

"I'll be weighing what the advice is from the people who understand this better than I do, like Dr. Renard Washington," Dashew said. "Like the folks at the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services. And when the time comes that I can take that mask off at board meetings, I will be doing a happy dance.”

At-Large Board Member Jennifer De La Jara said she welcomes the conversation regarding masking in schools. 

"As I have said twice from the dais, we would address our mask mandate after the BOCC gave their updated guidance.  Although it has been portrayed by some that there has been a refusal for CMS to discuss it, it’s just not true.  We said we would discuss it and we will, on Tuesday," she said in a statement. 

Due to the county-wide mask mandate, CMS BOE could not make its mask mandate optional. Some members of the community have criticized board members for not discussing a plan to rescind its masks mandate once the county-wide mask mandate was lifted. 

"While Mecklenburg County was under a mask mandate that applied to schools to so we really couldn't go against the mandate," Dashew said. "But meanwhile, you know, our staff have been in close connection with the public health staff and following all the guidance as it continues to evolve and adapt and to be prepared to go mask optional when the time comes. And now it's time to have that conversation." 

The board of education will hold its next meeting at 6 p.m. in the Chamber of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Government Center.

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